Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A Double Edged Sword ....

.... is something I should be used to by now.
I'm not.

I am in Alaska this week.
This is my second visit.
The first time was back in 2007 .... with Jim and the Sons.

It was to be our last family vacation.
Jim died 6 months later.

My brother lives here and I came to be his "nurse" after he has back surgery today.
(I'm not sure why anyone would consider me to be a good care-giver .... I left home with one of the Sons sounding like he's hacking up a lung).

Anyway, being here .... walking through this home, taking my suitcase into the same bedroom we used ..... is a double-edged sword.
It's piercing my heart with the missing of Jim and yet making me grateful to have one-on-one time with my brother, which we've probably never had before.

The above picture is one of my favorites of Jim ..... as well as one of the last.
He loved Alaska.
He loved my brother and his family.
He loved how beautiful it is here (in the summer .... not so much right now) and was enjoying the view from a mountain that we were in the midst of climbing that day .... our last day here.

I wonder ..... do the "firsts" ever stop coming?
Do reminders of the "lasts" ever stop coming?
Because after 3 1/2  years ..... I'd like them to stop.
But I don't think they will.

I still have marriages ahead of me.
Daughters with no father to walk them down the aisle.
Sons with no dad to give them sage advice before their wedding day.

I, hopefully, still have grandchildren to be born.
Beautiful children who will never know the wonderful man who was their grandfather.

I still have graduations to go through ..... and one Marine boot camp graduation.
That one would have made Jim cry like a baby.
I know that I'll be crying for both of us.

All of these "firsts" are double-edged swords .... they will bring heart ache .... and joy.

I am happy again.
But it's a happiness that is many times tinged with sadness around the edges.

I'm happy to be here with my brother.
I'm grateful that I could make the time to come and help him out.

But I'm sad that these walls and this place are also reminders of one of our "lasts".


Life is full of double edged swords.


  1. Janine,
    Thank you for this post.
    In December with Christmas approaching someone said to me
    remember you can hold both joy and grief in the same heart. They don't have to cancel each other out. You don't have to give up one to have the other - they often come together. Your post reminds me of that as it always feels that way for me too. I have grandchildren and when they say something sweet or funny about their "papa", I always feel the joy that they remember him (at least now, they are so young) and the pang of knowing - those memories will fade and he will be less present for them as the years go by. I always wish I could tell him what a huge impact he had made on them in such a short time. On so many - that double edged sword - so very grateful for his life, for him, for the memories and so painful to be here without him.

    There are so many firsts to come, so many lasts I remember. There is a beautiful song I want to share called "say what you want to say" by Rosie Thomas. There is a line in there that says "when I look through the photographs and i see the smile on your face. I remember how you used to feel and see how much has changed".

    Life really is full of double edged swords...

  2. Well said Janine! Ever since I lost my husband 14 months ago, I wondered if my pride will trump my grief when I handle weddings, grandchildren, graduations, etc. without him. These events are cause for joy and celebration. Is that how I will actually feel? No one else except this widow/widower community could ever understand the double edge sword. Fortunately, we have each other.

  3. I so very well know the pain of that double edged sword. Our only son had just graduated from high school in May when I lost my husband, Charles, on July 28, 2008. I am thankful that their father was able to attend all three of their high school graduations, but I have since gone through two college graduations for my daughters at their father's alma mater and will be attending my son's graduation from the same university next year. Our oldest child, Jennifer, got married last June and is expecting our first grandchild at Thanksgiving. Each event was so bittersweet without my husband sitting there beside me. I try to be strong for my children, but sometimes it's just too hard to hold back tears when your heart is breaking time after time after time. I don't think the firsts or lasts will ever end for me, and as I excitedly await the birth of my first grandchild, I know that I will be feeling both joy and grief as I hold that tiny baby in my arms. If it's a boy, my daughter is naming him after his grandfather.

  4. Janine,
    I know just what you mean about double edged swords.My husband of 35 years died about 15 months ago suddenly.I found him.He was only 58.I was 53.I have been having a real hard time the past months.It has been getting harder instead of easier.My youngest son told me the other day that it has been getting harder for him as well.He is 24 and getting married in October.I have to say that I should be joyful about that day and I am dreading it.I have not told my son this of course.I am sure he is going to be having a hard day as well without his Dad there.I feel so out of place,broken,incomplete a misfit I guess you might say.I have come to realize lately that I didn't just lose 1 person,I lost many! My best friend,my partner,companion,lover,father of my (our)children,Grandfather of my(our) Grandchildren.My heart aches for them too.Sometimes it seems like just too much ache to bear.I take care of my Grandsons and a little while ago he said to me I wish Grandpa would come back.He is 3 and I am trying so hard to keep his memory alive as long as I can.My husband adored his sons and Grandsons.He adored all 8 of his brothers and sisters and his huge family.We are all still in disbelief.I cherish my memories but the ones we won't be having are the hard ones.The retirement with him we never had,the future with more Grandchildren,growing old together,traveling.I could go on and on.I am so thankful for the 35 years we had but so sad for the ones we aren't going to have.It is just so hard to imagine.Everything I do everywhere I go there are memories triggered.It is bittersweet.I can't imagine that it will change.Half of my heart is gone.I know he is around because I have had many signs.They really help me and I seem to get them when I really need them.I had a dream about him a few nights ago and this week has been harder.The dream was so real.I was outside and he was walking towards me and I said "Hi Honey,I have missed you so much" He stopped and I held his face in my hands and gave him a long kiss. He then started walking behind me. I was crying .I woke up and I was really crying not just in my dream.I couldn't go back to sleep.I was talking to God then as I do a lot and trying to understand it all.You talked about the firsts and the lasts Janine.My mind keeps going through them.I honestly think they will just keep coming.I am just praying that they don't continue to be bittersweet and just become sweet and not hurt.I know I am blessed with our sons,Grandchildren,and family but I feel like there is only half of me.I feel like humpty dumpty.I had a great fall and I can't be put back together again.I have just found these widows and widower communities recently.It feels good to be able to share these feelings with all of you.If you aren't in our shoes you can not understand.I feel sometimes that I am avoided by people because they don't know what to say.I am so sorry for all who lose their significant others.I know we all grieve in our own ways,some similar,some not."The only way out is through." It is the hardest thing I have ever had to do and I am doing the best I can and taking it sometimes just minute by minute.God bless you all and I pray that one day it will be so much easier for us all!

  5. This is a tough post for me. This weekend will mark Mother's Day, our 43rd wedding anniversary and the weekend he became ill 3 yrs ago. And I will be alone for various reasons. And this summer our first granddaughter will be born. And as parents of 2 boys, this is very special. He would have been the best grandpa! I also feel that many places that we traveled to and enjoyed that I can never visit again alone because it would be too bittersweet. These same feelings come when spring arrives, as John loved the outdoors so much after long winters and he loved to golf. I'm very thankful that we had 46 yrs together, but its still so hard to be left behind alone. And he was only 63 when he died, and we had our retirement ahead of us. And I'm still slowly trying to navigate how to live without him. And it is so sad and painful and lonely.

  6. Has anyone seen the youtube short film video called "leave me" by Darrosfilms
    about a man who has lost his wife.
    It reminds me of the dream you mention.

    I so wish my husband and I could have become old together. I never imagined I would be the one left behind. I always thought I was going to go first.

    Sometimes I can't tell if I am in grief or a major depression.
    The sun is shining brightly today. I had to come home and I just sat in the house with my eyes closed - not wanting to see a new season. One that I can't share with him.

    We had 36 years. Children, grandchildren - I know they are blessings, I know it is selfish to want more, but I do.

    After watching that video, I thought - if only . . .
    that would be my wish.
    Just leave me/